The Best of Both This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

October 8, 2010
By , Key West, FL
Like the peaceful and flowing ocean that surrounds the island, the people of my hometown in Key West are the most open minded and accepting people I know. We live by the motto “one human family,” and this philosophy is reflected in our actions. In comparison, the people of my mother’s homeland in Liechtenstein are more guarded in their views like the Swiss Alps protecting the country. The topography of the two lands are in stark contrast, but the cultures of each have been intertwined and have shaped mybeliefs.

In Liechtenstein the population is homogenous. The majority of its citizens are white, Roman Catholics. Spending every summer in Liechtenstein has allowed me to become fluent in German and experience an entirely new culture. However, this past summer I noticed that the uniform nature of the people extends beyond their appearances. Reflecting on conversations with my grandmother, I realized that her beliefs are filled with tradition, but also with fear and doubt of a changing world. Her inability to live spontaneously and her parochial mindset are shared among most in the small country.

Key West is the complete antithesis. The school hallways are a mosaic of cultures, bursting with colors and diversity. This diversity extends beyond the school walls and throughout the entire six square mile community. Walking down the uneven sidewalks of old town Key West, one may encounter many different tongues, including Creol, Polish, and my father’s native language, Spanish. Along the same stroll, one may come across a renowned poet or a drag queen dancing on Duval Street. A passerby is guaranteed to see children chasing after a few wild chickens running down the road.

The whole city is filled with character. The streets are lined with the broadest range of homes. The largest house in town is built next to a little old shack with a purple door. What is even more unique are the people inside these homes. Everyone shares a different opinion, no one view is the same as the next. However, one idea that we all do share is the way we approach life, always keeping an open mind.

Growing up in Key West has taught me to see the best in everyone and everything. Spending summers in Liechtenstein has taught me to remain steadfast to my goals. Subconsciously, I have taken the best aspects of both my cultures and combined them to create who I am today. I try to accept one’s differences, and as a result I am open to more abstract ideas. I’ve discovered that the most interesting people are often those that many disregard because of preconceived notions. Although I cherish the carefree and permissive nature of the island, I am also glad to have been exposed to the strong work ethic and structure of my European heritage. The values I have gleaned from each culture have prepared me to face any obstacles I may encounter, and will allow me to adapt to any environment no matter how foreign.

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